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Patriots stay unbeaten, but injuries continue

By
Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on November 23, 2015. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on November 23, 2015. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The injuries keep piling up for the New England Patriots.

But so do the wins.

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The undefeated defending NFL champions scratched and clawed their way to a 20-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night but suffered more manpower problems with a game at Denver coming up on Sunday night.

Danny Amendola, who replaced injured Julian Edelman as the primary possession receiver and caught nine passes for 117 yards, suffered a knee injury in the third quarter after fellow receiver Aaron Dobson went out with an ankle injury.

So the Patriots (10-0) finished the tough, physical battle with two wide receivers and one of them, Chris Harper, was just brought back from the practice squad.

It led to an uneven win.

"I don't think that's an excuse. I think we can play better," quarterback Tom Brady said after his 25th win in 28 starts against the Bills. "I think some of the things that we didn't do well had nothing to do with missing some of the guys. We've just gotta do things better if we want to score more points."

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James White, who has gone from inactive to replacing injured Dion Lewis as the third-down back, scored the first two touchdowns of his NFL career, one of a nifty pass catch-and-run, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked two field goals as the Patriots won their 13th straight dating to the 2014 postseason.

"We'll take it and move on to Denver," coach Bill Belichick said.

Amendola made it off the field on his own and never left the sideline. Dobson was helped off the field and was taken the rest of the way to the locker room on a cart.

Brady, pressured and hit throughout, threw one touchdown pass and his third interception of the season, finishing 20 of 39 for 277 yards. He is 26-3 lifetime against Buffalo, including 2-0 this season.

"It's better than some of the days he's had against us," Buffalo coach Rex Ryan said. "He's smart. He gets rid of the ball when he needs to. He doesn't take risks."

And he also called Ryan's name on an audible.

"He likes me, I know that," Ryan quipped.

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Running back LeSean McCoy, who had 82 yards rushing and 41 receiving, scored on a 27-yard touchdown run to tie it at 10 for the Bills (5-5) in the third quarter. But he also dropped a touchdown pass.

"It's very frustrating, just thinking we had chances to win," he said, adding, "but we'll get better."

A fumbled punt by Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin helped New England get the field goal that made it 20-10 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter. Dan Carpenter's second field goal of the game brought the Bills closer with 3:30 left, and Buffalo had one last chance to tie it.

New England scored in the first three quarters but came up empty in the fourth, ending a run of an NFL-record 38 straight quarters with points since being blanked in the first quarter of the season.

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who missed on several deep balls, was impressive under pressure and finished 20 of 36 for 233 yards. Wide receiver Chris Hogan had six catches for 95 yards. Taylor injured his right shoulder late and stayed in the game.

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The officials had a terrible night, often appearing as if they had no idea what was going on.

A bizarre play in the third quarter may well have taken seven points away from New England. Brady scrambled to his right and, as he was nearing the sideline, threw 14 yards to an open Amendola, who had only one opposing player between himself and a touchdown.

But a whistle blew and, after a long meeting, the play was blown dead after 14 yards -- and Ryan got a sideline penalty for 15 more yards. With the crowd booing, the Patriots kept moving and Gostkowski missed wide right from 54 yards -- ending his streak of 31 straight field goals overall and 52 at home.

NOTES: The Bills paid close attention to Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who caught just two passes on seven targets -- one a big 27-yarder. ... Game-time temperature was 29 degrees with a wind chill of 21. ... Patriots LB Jamie Collins missed his third straight game because of illness. ... With the offensive line healthier, C David Andrews, who had played every snap of the season, was replaced by Bryan Stork after a first series that saw Andrews guilty of a penalty -- Andrews returning later with Stork moving to guard. ... Patriots starting OTs Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon returned from injury, with Cannon called for two penalties on the first drive. ... QB EJ Manuel was Buffalo's backup with Josh Johnson inactive. ... The Patriots observed a moment of silence before the game for Ezra Schwartz, the local teenager and Patriots fan killed in a terror attack on the West Bank last week.

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